My pocket sized mother, four suitcases and I board a Northwest Airlines flight bound for New York’s LaGuardia airport. We sit on the tarmac for hours, as the flight is delayed, delayed, delayed. Eventually we take off, collect our things and wait in line for a taxi. Our Asian cabbie driver is not at all nice and has the audacity to be ANNOYED by our four bags.
We cross over the Tri-Borough Bridge and head up Harlem River Drive, as we exit for 179St and Amsterdam, I turn and study my mother’s face. Before entering my neighborhood, which remarkably resembles suburbia or as suburban as Manhattan gets, we cut through a section of Washington Heights, which resembles New Delhi. The stores spill onto the sidewalks, vendors deep-fry carbohydrates on street corners, and people lumber along the sidewalks, unlike the typical impatient, fast-paced New Yorker.
My mother’s eyes seem to widen. After spending more than half her life in Minnesota, I’ll bet she didn’t think there were parts of America that would remind her of India. Her eyes resume their normal shape when we stop in front on my very clean building with a fantastic art deco foyer.
We are so exhausted that all we can think of is sleep. As my mother readies for bed I stare out the window, across the airshaft. My apartment is located at the back of the building, on the first floor with my eastern light blocked by the neighboring brick building. For the next year, those apartments and people are my view, if I survive the year. I am getting a little nervous about my decision. But it is way too late now. I have arrived. And more importantly, all my belongings come tomorrow.
The following morning the movers drop off my things and fuss about putting the bed and tables back together. Ugh, after they leave, because my mother and I can’t stand a mess, we begin working. Unlike my mother who paces herself, I like to start a project and not stop until I am done. So around 2:00 pm my mother tells me she’s hungry, break time has some. Immediately after eating we resume working and don’t stop until 8:00 pm for dinner. Because my mother is jonesing for a cup of tea we go to the only Indian restaurant in the neighborhood so she can get her fix. It is rather amusing to think of her as addicted to anything since she and my father are hard and fast teetotalers.
The following morning is Saturday and Jane stops by. She had offered to help us unpack, God bless her, but we only have the kitchen to assemble. She is impressed by our industrious pace and we decide to go to the Bronx Target, where I fill the cart with Kleenex, laundry detergent, Dawn, toilet paper, Lysol wipes and fantastik. With raised brows Jane asks where I intend to store all these items. Under the sink and in the closets; and the paper products are going under the bed, I reply.
She tells Mom and me that Jack does not allow her to buy anything in multiples. I tell her that I don’t live with Jack. And there is the small issue that I am a complete clean freak. As I push the cart down the next aisle, I remember Jack saying New York City has more rats than people and that he spent months killing roaches.
The thought of roaches sends shivers down my back, knowing they lurk, waiting to lunge out of dark cornered. So I get some Raid for good measure.